Unrealistic Expectations In Web Development

It’s amazing what you can find on Craigslist. I spend a little time every few weeks seeing what kind of web design projects people post. It keeps me in the loop of what the local market place is in need of and of course, you never know, might find a good client in the process.

The posts are frequently laughable. Lots of promises to cut you in to what could be a million dollar business, as long as you provide a huge amount of development work for free, of course. Some pretty unrealistic expectations as well.

Take this post I came across today, for example:

“I need an INDEPENDENT website developer (Saratoga Springs)

I have a great idea for a website similar to that of facebook.com and I need someone to build this website. The idea is extremely marketable and is potentially worth millions. I need someone in this local area so I can meet with them and discuss the website and the contract to build it. So again it is very important if you reply to this ad you must be able to construct a website with similar abilities to that of facebook.com and you must be local as well.

So if you are interested then please call this number xxx-xxx-xxxx. “

Now, the rebuttal post (it was not I who wrote this, I swear. But, I’ll admit to wanting to!)

“RE: I need an INDEPENDENT website developer (Moronville)

Where to begin? Perhaps in a number-bulleted fashion?

1) You want a website designed that’s like Facebook, and you expect a single website-developer to do this work for… ? Do you have any idea how much it would cost to develop a site that resembles Facebook? Are you familiar with the software development lifecycle?

2) Why is Facebook worth billions? Because 500,000,000+ people use it. How many people do you think will use your website? A niche audience? A wide-ranging audience? If Facebook is worth $50billion, that means each user is worth roughly $100. For a startup website like you’re talking about, you won’t get the value/user of $100… probably more like $1 – $10… if that.

3) You’re an idiot. “

Whoever you are, I salute your candor. While I’m not as harsh, I do find myself frequently having similar conversations. Most of the time I feel pretty bad about it. It’s no fun bursting someones bubble with cold hard reality. I know that most web businesses fail. Success is the exception, not the rule. It takes knowledge, financing, dedication, hard work and a set of realistic expectations to make it work.

Anything is possible in this digital world, as it’s always been. The web doesn’t make it a sure thing.

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Search Marketing Space Will Be Healthy for a Long Time

Recession or not, the outlook for search marketing spending — both SEO and paid search advertising — is solid.

Spending on SEO will increase more than 110% by 2013 to $3.85 billion, according to eMarketer. Paid search advertising spending will increase 65% to $14.72 billion.

That level of additional spending portends enormous opportunities for every category of participant in the search ecosystem.

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Top 10 Must-Have Ecommerce Features

If you’re an online merchant, you already understand the importance of having a professional looking website. But do you know which ecommerce features are essential to making your website successful at selling and managing your product?

To help you navigate the sea of competing ecommerce platforms and identify the best solution for your business, I’ve compiled this list of top ten must-have ecommerce features that you should be looking for (and asking questions about) as you seek a suitable shopping cart to serve your online store.

1. Search-engine Friendliness
You’ll want your shopping cart solution to provide you with control over your own title tags, meta descriptions and keywords so that you can easily optimize at-will for the search engines. You’ll also want your solution to automatically generate keyword-rich URLS based on your product and category names and to generate page code that is XHTML 1.0 strict compliant.

2. PCI Compliant Hosting & Security
Because your website will need to accept online payments, you must find a provider who can host your website in a PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant environment. If you don’t know anything about PCI Compliance, you’ll need to understand your role in complying with the DSS (Data Security Standards). Currently, the card industry mandates that any merchant, organization or software that processes, stores or disseminates credit card data must be PCI DSS compliant or they risk hefty fines and/or losing the ability to process credit cards altogether thus putting your entire business in jeopardy. Although there is a lot more involved with PCI compliance than just hosting your site in a compliant environment, this is your first step.

3. Up-selling & Cross-selling Features
Up-selling is offering customers a product that is of greater value than the product they are currently considering or adding options/features to the product they are buying in an attempt to increase their spend. Cross-selling refers to selling items that are complementary to the item they are purchasing. Be sure to make these techniques a part of your product marketing plan both online and off. Any suitable shopping cart technology will offer automated features that can accomplish these marketing techniques for you with some simple set-up. Make sure that your shopping cart solution offers these valuable recommendation tools.

4. Product Review Feature
Product reviews are a very powerful product marketing tool. In fact, research shows that even bad reviews help to sell more product than not showing reviews for a product at all. You’ll want an ecommerce solution that lets you enable customers to post reviews of the products that you sell. You can always review the posts before you choose to display them or choose to display reviews automatically on the website.

5. Flexible Pricing Management
You’ll want to find a shopping cart that offers flexible pricing features and allows you to set-up multiple pricing options to accommodate things like promotional pricing for any product, customer, order, or time frame, wholesale or retail pricing (or both) displayed to your customers via the same catalog interface and which allows you to set-up affiliate pricing, accepts coupon codes, allows for quantity-based pricing and has tax-exempt support.

6. Robust Catalog Management
Identify a solution that allows you to get your store started quickly by offering a bulk import/export of your catalog. You’ll find that this feature will support you throughout the life-cycle of your business and not just at start-up. Make sure that the solution also offers product cloning to simplify catalog additions, automatic resizing of your product images and has some strong inventory management capabilities such as letting you set minimum quantities and identify backordered items.

7. Solid Analytics & Reporting
Look for a solution that integrates with Google Analytics to demonstrate real-time site and search ranking data and that offers a variety of other product performance reporting capabilities, which you’ll need to accurately monitor your business. Be sure that you can export and save these reports.

8. Integrated Shipping
You’ll want your shopping cart solution to integrate with the major shipping providers such as USPS, UPS and Fedex and you’ll want the ability to markup shipping rate-quotes by a percentage or by a flat amount so that you have the option to charge transparent handling fees.

9. Product Feed Support
You’ll want your shopping cart solution to have a product feed feature that will allow you to easily create a feed of your products that you can then upload to shopping comparison sites (aka “shopping engines”) such as Shopzilla, Shopping.com, Google Product Search, etc. and that will allow you to create multiple product feeds for each comparison engine.

10. Gift Certificate/Wishlist Features
Gift Certificate and Wishlist are two website features that play a major role in holiday sales conversions (according to a Demandware study). 64 percent of those surveyed said gift certificates equaled 25 percent of their online purchases and half of those surveyed said they shopped using someone else’s wishlist. So, be sure to utilize these features on your site and do not consider an ecommerce solution that does not boast a robust online gift certificate and wishlist feature-set.

Making an informed decision when choosing a solution for your ecommerce website can be the difference between a successful online business and one that fails within the first year, as 50 percent of new ecommerce businesses do. So, while evaluating your options thoroughly will take some time and effort, the investment in researching your provider’s ecommerce features carefully will be well worth it as your online business develops.

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